Updated: August 6, 2016 10:57:36 am
By making Vijay Rupani Chief Minister at the end of dramatic turn of events, Amit Shah has taken complete charge of Gujarat and the political legacy of Narendra Modi.
In retrospect, Anandiben Patel’s rule will look as a temporary aberration.
Blending political resolve and ruthless determination, Shah overruled an angry Anandiben’s outburst and named his loyalist as “Gujarat no Nath (Lord of Gujarat)” with the support of Prime Minister Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
But this has come at a price — the party’s image in the state.
The Prime Minister’s Office, sources said, is satisfied with the choice of Rupani but not with the way the transition took place.
For one, the turn of events is expected to alienate the already restive Patel community and deepen the divide within. This divide was evident when Rupani’s name was announced by Nitin Gadkari here — there was no celebration, just long faces.
However, Shah had his way and how.
The cadre and MLAs were amazed to see how Shah used his virtual veto power for his trusted follower. A former minister and many-term BJP MP said, “Rupani will play the role of Bharat in Ramayana. He will keep the paduka on seat of power and will rule in the name of Shah.”
When Shah was serving his externment in New Delhi in the Sohrabuddin encounter case in 2010, he used to frequently stay at the Feroz Shah Road residence of Rupani who was then a member of the Rajya Sabha.
The sequence of events of the last two months is a reminder of how Modi and the BJP have come to rely on Shah to lead them to victory in the state in 2017.
Also read | Amit’s Shah of Gujarat is loyalist Vijay Rupani
Two months ago, when Anandiben Patel’s position became untenable, Modi had a detailed discussion with her. The buzz in Gandhinagar swirled around charges of corruption against her and she offered to quit. Only to, subsequently, start setting terms for her exit.
She agreed to resign only after persuading the PM that a Patel should be her successor and seniority should be factored in the selection. Her supporters claim that neither the PM nor the party opposed this demand. That’s how Nitin Patel’s name came into circulation as the candidate supported by the outgoing CM.
Shah and his supporters didn’t play any counter-moves at that time. However, her abrupt resignation — and that, too, on Facebook — worked against her. Sources said Modi and Shah didn’t like the “off-beat way she treated such a serious thing as her resignation.”
Meanwhile Shah is said to have told Modi: “Saheb, jeetvani guarantee hu apu chu. Badhu ekvaar mara per chodi do.” (Saheb, I am giving you the guarantee that we will win, just leave it to me.) It’s an understatement that to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it is imperative for Modi to win Uttar Pradesh and retain Gujarat.
The Modi-Shah talks on Gujarat culminated in the BJP Parliamentary Board empowering Shah with the mandate to select the new Gujarat CM. This was what Shah wanted — a pretext to trash all of Anandiben’s conditions.
However, on August 2, 3 and 4, Anandiben mobilised Kadva and Leuva Patels who, along with BJP’s Patel MLAs, got together to display Patel power.
But Shah had made up his mind. He was confident he would get the MLAs to understand that Rupani was the best choice to lead. Shah saw in him a “killer instinct” and he wanted to repeat his experiment of non-Jat CM in Haryana, non-Maratha in Maharashtra and non-tribal in Jharkhand. Similarly, he wanted a non-Patel in Gujarat to push the point that the Modi-Shah duo wants to promote “caste-neutral” leaders.
As for Nitin Patel, assured by Anandiben that he would be made CM, he began giving interviews and even ordered sweets for his supporters. In his hometown, celebrations began. Sources said Modi and Shah resented this, found it “immature.” Nitin Patel told The Indian Express that he didn’t know why he was dropped. “Ask those who took the decision,” he said.
Today, at around 5 pm, Shah convened a meeting of top leaders and office-bearers before announcing the CM candidate’s name.
This was where Anandiben and Shah met for the first time. Hell broke lose. A formal and routine meeting, sources told The Indian Express, saw Patel flying off the handle. Complaining that her rule as CM was undermined by the party, she became emotional and made serious allegations against Shah of interference.
Shah didn’t take these lightly as he proposed Rupani’s name saying he had never interfered in the Gujarat BJP even though he is all-India president.
He said that as he had the party’s mandate, he was for Rupani as CM. At this point V Satish, organisation general secretary, came out of the meeting of Shah, Anandiben Patel, Parshottam Rupala and others, to speak with Sangh leaders and Modi and brief them on the meeting.
Modi is said to have told Satish that Shah had the mandate from the board — and so threw the ball right back in Shah’s court.
A dejected Anandiben had no choice but to accept Shah’s decision.
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